A memorable day trip back to the time of the Romans

 In Blog, Summer Holiday Fun

I’ve always been fascinated by the Roman civilisation. Granted the history classes in school didn’t quite resonate with me, with rigid dates and battle facts , and I found Latin class excruciatingly difficult. But there was always something fascinating about Roman ruins; the buildings, the mosaics, the fact that they seemed to have led such a luxurious and lavish life style.

ad astra per aspera

One of my favourite novels through University was Marguerite Yourcenar’s ‘Memoirs of Hadrian‘. Amongst other aspects, this novel naturally depicts the past and somehow humanises these figures from Roman history that are mostly just statues to us these days.

I was interested in everything else that surrounded the Roman civilisation when visiting Roman ruins whether it was a mosaic in Constanta – Romanian harbour town by the Black Sea, the Roman villa in Lullingstone, the magnificent Via Apia in Rome or most recently Bath. In Lullingstone for example I loved seeing a piece of tile with a cat footprint on it, as the cat – typical feline – didn’t wait for the mix to dry and stepped in it, leaving evidence of it’s stubbornness that’s lasted 2,000 years.

So recently we decided to visit Bath, which is the ultimate “Roman” relic in the Anglo-Saxon English world. The weather wasn’t quite with us, but we live by the “Don’t let the rainy days spoil your holidays” mantra.

Bath street

I was immediately astonished at the architecture in Bath, houses there looked much more….Italian or French with a strange British twist, rather than ‘British British’ – in that they were taller, made of stone rather than brick, with cobbled streets and the gardens we could just about glimpse in the back gardens seemed luscious, almost Mediterranean.

Because Bath is quite a small town, and we didn’t have much time ahead of us we headed straight towards the Roman baths for a visit. We weren’t disappointed.

Roman BathsI didn’t know quite what to expect, as I thought initially that the baths would only be a pool of water, but there was much more to it inside, and we all learned a lot.

I had to wonder though what went through those Mediterranean Latin soldiers minds when they arrived in this rainy land of Saxon tribes, thousand of miles from home, that made them think “we’ll have to make it our own. Let’s make a lavish bath!”.

The fun legend says that one of the later Roman emperors was asked by a barbarian chieftain why he bathed once a day. The emperor answered in apologetic innocence that it was because he was too busy to bathe twice.

Around 43 AD, the Roman armies landed on the south coast of England with the aim to conquer the “more civilised” south-east of England. They were quite respectful to the gods and goddesses of those they conquered. The Iron Age local tribe believed the hot spring was sacred to the Goddess Sulis hence her Sacred Spring stayed while the landscape around began to change as the Romans, in very typical fashion, started colonising and trading.

In 60 AD a rebellion broke out, led by the British Queen Boudica – it was so violent that by the end of the rebellion the province lay in ruins. It took ten years to repair damage that had been inflicted in just a few months and it is thought that it was probably during this period of reconstruction that the Romans decided to turn the native sanctuary of Sulis into a curative establishment.

Roman bath model

So the Romans started building the baths, with very precise and elaborate systems of channels in order to tame the spring of hot water.

The excavations and archaeological diggings revealed a lot of details and were able to reconstruct what those Baths might have been like.

The Baths were elegant yet simple, with chambers for massage and relaxations, several broad walkways paved with white hard lilac slabs and alcoves. The pool was 1.5 meters deep and the hot spring water flowed constantly into the Great Bath – the water level being maintained by a bronze sluice. There are still some impressive pieces of Roman engineering at work, such as the very noisy arched overflow of water. They also had elaborate heating systems under the floors in what I imagine would have been the Roman equivalent of the “changing rooms”.

arched overflow roman baths

We also saw Roman artefacts that gave an idea life at the time, such as jugs, jewellery, coins and even tombstones. The building also hosted a temple for the cult of Minerva as, faced with the spring sacred to Sulis, the Romans may have thought that this Sulis was the equivalent of their own Minerva.

After the visit to the bath we strolled into town for some sightseeing and found the famous umbrellas in the Town Centre – what a brilliant idea to shelter people on a rainy day!

Bath umbrellas

We also strolled along the river Avon and admired the boats turning beneath the Pulteney Bridge and the elegant Royal Victoria park.

We had a wonderful and unforgettable visit to Bath. The landscapes were beautiful as we descended the Avon Valley to Bath and this town is one of the most charming in Britain. Thoroughly recommended to all looking for a little slice of history and a fun day out in England – there was plenty of interest even for our little one who referred to the baths themselves as “amazing”.

Bath River Avon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Showing 20 comments
  • JAcinta
    Reply

    I would love to visit Bath. I love visiting places with a rich history. Some great pictures of the baths.

  • Tanita
    Reply

    Oh this looks lovely. I would love to take the children here I really love showing them as much as I can especially if involves our history. They are always keen learners too. xx

  • CLare
    Reply

    I love history although it is quite hard making it fun for a 7 year old boy! But this looks amazing, I have not been there before but will definitely give it a go now 🙂

  • Jaime Oliver
    Reply

    We love it here, we planned to go back this summer but time has got away from us this time round

  • Helen
    Reply

    Aww glad you had a lovely time – Bath is such a pretty city, there’s so much history to discover 🙂

  • Fiona
    Reply

    Such a beautiful city and the history is amazing. Your blog has made me put it on the list of places to visit with the kids again.

  • Katie Halsall
    Reply

    I really enjoyed learning about the Romans in school actually, and I think it’s all so interesting to discover all this history in a town! I’ve never been to Bath, but it definitely seems like somewhere I need to visit!

  • Sarah Humphreys
    Reply

    I don’t actually live that far from Bath but we have never been there, the history and architecture look very interesting.

  • Lu Lovely
    Reply

    I’m also fascinates by the Romans. I visited Bath in my very early 20s and I remember it being beautiful.
    Is never heard of the umbrellas in the town centre. They look awesome!

  • Rachel
    Reply

    As we live in the North, we’ve often visited Hadrian’s Wall and some of the Roman forts. The kids have never been to Bath, though, so I’ve enjoyed looking through your photos. I think they would certainly enjoy a visit, thanks for sharing and inspiring me to organise a visit!

    • RainyDaysFun
      Reply

      Hadrian’s Wall – I really must visit it! Hadrian….he was something. I seem to remember during the visit to the Baths that changing rooms used to be mixed, so both female and male but he changed this :))))

  • five little doves
    Reply

    Ahh we went to Bath in July on our way back up north from our holiday, it’s absolutely stunning isn’t it?! I couldn’t get over those umbrellas, they are fab! We didn’t get to look around the Roman historic sites as much due to the fact we had all four children with us but we hope to go back in the new year just the two of us!

  • Carolynne @ Mummy Endeavours
    Reply

    I have never been to Bath but it’s on my to see list! I’ve wanted to go for ages, really enjoyed reading this post x

  • Cardiff Mummy Says - Cathryn
    Reply

    I love Bath! I had my hen do there 10 years ago actually and love to visit. I know what you mean about it being so different to most UK cities. It’s so elegant! We as a family absolutely love the Romans! We went to Rome earlier this year with the kids, 10 years to the week we honeymooned there, and they were blown away by the Colosseum. We have been to other Roman ruins closer to home but so far not Bath. It’s amazing how sophisticated and advanced the Romans were.

    • RainyDaysFun
      Reply

      Oh Rome, the most beautiful city in the world for me 🙂 You know I lived in Paris, and a lot of people love Paris and consider it the most beautiful city in the world but for me Rome just has something extra special.

  • Beth @ BethinaBox.com
    Reply

    I’ve been to Bath a few times as a child but I’ve never taken my children. We don’t have to travel far for Roman ruins though. I live 5 minutes from Caerwent Roman Town and 20 minutes from Caerleon Roman Fortress and Baths (where there is also an amphitheater). I love Roman ruins and so do my children. 🙂

    • RainyDaysFun
      Reply

      Is that in Wales? Wow brilliant. Wales isn’t all that far from Kent, we must pay Wales a visit!

  • rachelanne_bee
    Reply

    I love a bit of history. I think that’s why I love going on cultural holidays, even in the UK. Bath has to be one of the most beautiful places to visit!

  • Chloe Ciliberto
    Reply

    I lived in Bath for a couple of years and it is so beautiful isn’t it. All the buildings are so pristine and the history and culture is so wonderful. x

  • Elizabeth
    Reply

    I would love to visit there one day! My husband was born in Bath, and I walked Hadrian’s Wall earlier this year – loved it, all that history!

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